I want us to keep our eye on the ball, which is the upcoming trial of Louisiana Presbytery before the Standing Judicial Commission. I have been writing about my deep concerns that the desire of some in the PCA to get at Steve Wilkins is so profound that they are willing to take out a whole presbytery to do it. Kind of like burning down the house to get the termites. Or like that time in the Vietnam War where one of our military officials said, “We had to destroy the village in order to save it.” Now these concerns of mine were not just me with a case of the willies (because an injustice could conceivably happen), but were grounded in objective problems with the process as it was unfolding, and as it was being represented to us by its advocates.
In the controversy that has followed my posts, a few important things have come to light, or have been reinforced, and I want to summarize them briefly here.
1. What does justice look like? What constitutes the burden of proof? What constitutes lawful evidence? It has become increasingly obvious over at Green Bagginses (a sort of clearing house for this stuff now) that certain leaders among the FV critics have no problem whatever in circulating the reports of anonymous screechers, and giving credence to them that Scripture does not permit us to give. I have actually been extremely grateful that all this came tumbling out in the way it has, because it has made my repeated concerns glaringly obvious. If the “evidence” posted in the last forty-eight hours at Green Bagginses is any indication of what the SJC will accept as lawful evidence, then Louisiana is in a lot of trouble. Now if SJC is the football team, then the guys at Green Bagginses are the cheerleaders. But everything reflects on the team, and if I were the anti-FV coach I would walk over there and tell them to put a sock in the last couple cheers. “TRs and Lesbians! We’re number one! TResbians!” is puzzling some of the season ticket holders in the stands.
To summarize this point, I have been saying for some time now that justice is not being pursued; Steve Wilkins is being pursued. I have encountered hot disagreement on this point, but now this mini-eruption of slander at Green Bagginses comes, just in time. Do I reel in horror? No, we have heard it all before, and I want to extend my thanks to all involved — this is the kind of thing I am talking about. Look at the reassurances of promised justice, and then look at what the reassurers think is lawful evidence. Yikes.
2. As an aside, I want Lane to know that I read, and appreciated, his qualification about what has happened to his blog. I am not painting with a broad brush when it comes to Lane personally. At the same time, he needs to consider the possibility that when he gets back to his blog, it might not be habitable any more. And he should also consider what this particular meltdown is going to do for his credibility as a judicious prosecutor in this case. If I were arguing for the defense in the SJC trial, want to know what I would bring up about a hundred times?
3. Just for the record, again, I do not believe that Bob Mattes was trying to get an airman to lie for him. I believe that Bob sincerely thought he was doing the kid a favor, giving him a chance to tell the truth before he committed himself in court under oath to a lie. And Bob did this on the basis of his knowledge that he had the other guy, the guilty guy, dead to rights. And now Bob thinks he is trying to do the same kind of favor for Louisiana Presbytery. But here is the problem, and it is a critical one. This is why mastery of biblical justice is so crucial. What does it take for Bob to think he has somebody “dead to rights”? Not much, apparently. An anonymous blog or two should do it.
And in his post on this, he made the point that you need to be loyal to the right people. Right. And the next day, Jeff Hutchinson shows up cheek by jowl with the Ward Churchill contingent of local Moscow politics.
4. Louisiana was asked, several times, to check into Steve’s theology, which they did. Louisiana had Steve’s writings, and they had personal conversations with him about those writings, and they gave him a clean bill of health a couple times. The SJC did not like this result; they had his writings, but did not talk to Steve. They have called Louisiana on the carpet for simply clearing Steve. Now they can only do this if there is a “strong presumption of guilt,” but how can the SJC say this when they did a less thorough investigation of Steve’s views than did Louisiana? The further you go in a process like this, the higher the standards get, not lower.
5. And this is why the Standing Judicial Commission needs to clarify a couple really basic things. I am not expecting them to write me a letter, obvously, but thousands of Reformed believers are following this, and a public statement of some sort at some time is necessary. The SJC needs to state clearly, contra Bill Lyle’s comment (even though he is a one member of the Commission), that the burden of proof lies fully on the prosecution, not on the defense, and not on the prosecution and defense jointly. In short, it needs to be absolutely clear that Louisiana Presbytery is going into her trial with the full presumption of innocence. Secondly, Louisiana cannot be allowed to defend herself against a charge that she did not convict Steve. How could she convict Steve without a trial, and how could the SJC know what the outcome of the trial should have been without a trial? This is fundamental. In order to be just, the charge against Louisiana needs to be formulated as a “failure to indict.” Was there sufficient evidence to require a trial or not? This is very different than whether Steve should have been found guilty. “Failure to convict” as a charge would mean that the SJC thinks it already knows that Steve Wilkins is guilty, and they would have had to have gotten this information by esoteric means because there has been no trial yet. But if Louisiana is convicted of “failure to indict,” then this means that Steve Wilkins would then need to be tried, from scratch, with the presumption of innocence.
When it comes to biblical justice, we are not permitted to cut corners. If the SJC is wise, they should not want to look like they are cutting corners. And bringing us full circle, the clamorous support they are receiving from Green Bagginses is not really helping them look judicious in this regard. Any day now I suspect that members of the Commission will receive anonymous packages from “a concerned brother,” which will contain information that both Wilkins and I have been featured in The Intelligence Report of the Southern Poverty Law Center, the world’s richest civil rights organization. (I never mention the SPLC without saying that, just as I never mention Heidegger without calling him a Nazi.) But any high profile minister who hasn’t been targeted by the SPLC ought to be worried about whether he needs to kick it up a notch. That kind of thing ought to be worn like it was a Bronze Star — not hidden in the attic lest a brother in Christ find it and attack you for it. “Doesn’t this medal implicitly show that you have, in the past, been somewhat . . . belligerent?”